The 2016/17 Third Level Football season was officially launched on Wednesday afternoon, September 21st at the FAI’s Abbotstown headquarters. The conference included representatives from all 50 participating institutions in the second year the launch has been held at Abbotstown.
The FAI National Coordinator for Schools and Third Level Football, Mark Scanlon chaired the conference that also featured FAI Director of Communications Fran Gavin, College Football Association of Ireland (CFAI) chairman Pádraig Carney and the Women’s Soccer Colleges Association of Ireland (WSCAI) chairman Neil O’Donnell.
“We’re delighted to be able to have this launch in Abbotstown for the second year in a row for the men’s and women’s divisions,” Scanlon said.
108 teams will compete over the course of the season with five men’s divisions and three women’s divisions.
“We’re looking forward to another great season with the quality increasing all the time, said Scanlon, “Last year, we had registered 2811 players in Third Level Football across the various different divisions.”
He added,“It is a huge opportunity for everyone across the universities and colleges to play football whilst also importantly offering scholarship opportunities for young footballers to get third level education,”
All speakers spoke of the importance of Third Level Football and its influence on Irish football and congratulated those involved.
“A lot of organisation goes into it in order for the competitions to run smoothly,” Carney said.
There will be 17 men’s competitions and nine women’s competitions at Third Level Football in 2016/17 that will see the season run from October to February.
Carney explained, “This is the 11th season of the Combined Colleges and Universities Men’s Football League, and with 83 teams for over 1500 players, it is now one of the biggest leagues in the country.
“A lot of organisation goes into the league and we’re extremely grateful to the FAI for their administrative, financial and technical support.”
The College & Universities League (CUFL) will comprise of 83 teams in 2016/17, spread across four divisions. “One of the highlights was the media coverage of the games,” he added, crediting it to the “consistent and precise” refereeing and the quality of the players in the competitions.
Fran Gavin hailed the third level game’s influence on domestic football in Ireland as “massive”, explaining that the footprint it has on the League of Ireland is evident. The Director of Communications complimented the quality of the coaching at third level football and credited both coaches and players for playing “a big role” in domestic competitions.
“We’re encouraging more SSE Airtricity League clubs to get involved with third level,” he said.
86 players currently playing third level men’s football are involved with first teams in the domestic league with a further 36 women involved in third level football are also in first team squads in Ireland’s domestic leagues.
WSCAI chairman Neil O’Donnell spoke of his thoughts on this season saying, “We have a very exciting season.
“We’ve introduced a new cup and league competition structure as well as a more competitive environment. We’ve done this as there has been an increase in Women’s National League players which has seen the standard of the league go up so we’re looking forward to another exciting season.”
DCU men’s football manager Declan Roche represented the university on Wednesday and spoke to The College View about the launch and DCU’s prospects for 2016/17.
“It was a great turnout, I’m delighted with that,” he said, “It was all very positive.”.
DCU will compete in the Premier Division this season with universities such as Maynooth, UCD and Trinity College all involved.
Roche added, “We’ve been in that group the last couple of years, we’re very lucky we were able to keep our premier status. We want the players playing at that level, it’s a very good standard and a lot of good teams and we’ve got good players too so we’re looking forward to it. .
“We had a number of applicants from the under 19 Airtricity League who’ve applied for scholarships, they’re actually in the university now. Nine altogether arrived yesterday so I’m really pleased with that. The Under 19 League is a very good level, I see a lot of the games and were very happy to have them in.”
Image credit: Football Association of Ireland